Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of a shared value economy. If not, dart over to our post from January to watch Michael Porter explain the concept. In short, the idea is that healthy capitalism today depends on businesses recognizing the importance of societal needs. Porter and others believe that more boats are lifted (and that includes lifting profits) when business is moving in the same direction as efforts to build sustainable, healthy communities--or or even leading the charge.
At Forbes, Kevin Lee poses an interesting thesis. Lee, COO of China Youthology, argues that China is the right environment for a shared values approach to take root and be successful. And he thinks his clientele, the youth of China, will be the drivers. He puts forward the following reasons for this belief:
1) Chinese youth are already in-step with the newest global ideas.
Participatory culture from the Internet, social media, and mobile has been the experience of Chinese youth, similar to those in other countries. New concepts such as shared value not only have a receptive audience with Chinese youth, they are actively advocated and spread. Isaac Mao, one of China’s earliest bloggers, leads Sharism.org in China, an organization dedicated to educating and advocating the philosophy and practice of Sharism. “The more you give, the more you get, the more you share, the more you’re shared”. Frequent meetings and conferences are held in Beijing and Shanghai, attended by some of the top thought leaders and Internet influencers in China. Other than the Internet and social media, youth growing up in China have few other social spaces to call their own. So participatory culture and derived concepts have become important for them to cling to, as it makes up a larger piece of their generational identity.
2) Hyper growth means less entrenched traditional norms.
Chinese youth have only known fast and radical change. New is normal. Therefore Chinese youth are seeking new meaning in all aspects of their life; the meanings of self-identity, of being an individual, of being a society. This extends to re-examining old ideas that older generations hold so dear. Chinese youth are less resistant, and more willing to re-define the meanings of business, industry and capitalism. Unlike other developed societies where the definitions of these concepts are treated as sacred and entrenched at an early age, in China these terms are newer, and much greyer. Other developed capitalist countries will take longer to extricate themselves from what they know and dare to reconsider the validity. China’s youth do not have that problem. They are re-defining traditional capitalism right now.
3) China’s next generation cannot keep up with traditional consumption.
This is one of the most important drivers for China’s potential leadership in shared value. Young people’s job and income prospects are far worse in China than in many other developed countries, while competition is several times greater. Even the hopes of achieving middle class consumption levels are a real struggle in China. A young person would need to take out a 70- to 80-year mortgage to buy a small apartment in one of China’s major cities. The traditional expectations of a consumption economy are not possible in China’s reality. Chinese youth are driven towards different solutions to survive and flourish. Shared value can fit this need.
4) First chances for creation, making new rules.
If we had the first three reasons, but a completely restrictive government and market, there would be no chance for this generation of China’s youth to champion shared value. Luckily this is not the case. China’s emerging market economy means there is room for new firsts in everything. Few legacy systems or processes means entrepreneurs and organizations have the chance now to re-structure the market and industries to newer business concepts. In addition, few legacy ecosystems and competencies mean entrepreneurs and organizations must develop new clusters to create markets and pool resources to gather strength enough to build something of value. This is shared value in action.
Read Can China Lead The Development Of The Shared Value Economy? here.